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Ani Difranco – Educated Guess

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I love Ani Difranco, I really do. It’s because of this love that I buy her albums, regardless of quality. I support her politics and her business practices and so I’m happy to drop thirteen dollars once or twice a year on a dozen or so tracks. I even like the strange folk-funk fusion she’s been playing for the past five years or so. However, her newest album, "http://www.righteousbabe.com/ani/educated_guess/index.asp">Educated Guess, is Not Good.

It’s not bad, either. It’s not like it’s Fountains of Wayne or whatever shite Clear Channel deems fit to shove into my ears when I’m forced to listen to commercial radio. But it’s still Not Good. It’s not what we’ve all come to expect from our favorite little folk singer. The music itself is fine, I suppose. Ani continues in her recent pattern of relying less and less on her guitar, which is unfortunate, because she’s a very good guitar player.

The music isn’t what’s disappointing, though. The lyrics are what’s really heartbreaking. Ani is known for writing lyrics that are evocative, clever and heartfelt. The lyrics on Educated Guess, well, they aren’t. For example

you keep telling me i’m beautiful
but i feel a little less so each time
your love is so colorful
it flashes like a neon sign
but i finally drove out where
the sky is dark enuf to see stars
and i found i missed no one

just listening to the swishing of distant cars

or maybe

as dolls go i am broken
and you could just let that get us off the hook
but from under the umbrella of the unspoken
i see you giving me that look

She’s clunky and she’s awkward. Perhaps it’s just that sadness doesn’t agree with Ani; her best work has come out of a fierce anger tainted by some serious joy. For now, I think maybe she should put on a Cure album and get over it before stepping into the studio again, because as long as the she keeps up the melancholy, I’m going to continue to mourn for the woman who said things like:

i want somebody who can hold my interest
hold it and never let it go
someone who can flatten me with a kiss
that hits like a fist
or a sentence, that stops me like a brick wall

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About amanda

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    well, lemme add my view on this one.

  • Timmy

    What’s wrong with Fountains of Wayne? Too pop for your indie sensibilities?

  • Eric Olsen

    there are much worse than the Waynes! But good job and welcome she-with-the-eye-chart-name

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I think most any performer, given enough time and albums will reach “Not Good”. I’m thinking of the new Sonic Youth album, “Sonic Nurse”. I’ve been a fan of theirs for 20 years, and it was all I could do with their recent album to work up a “meh”. Easy listening for cranky hipsters.

    I have the same sort of “meh” towards DiFranco, I like some of her songs, but ain’t camping out for whatever. She’s okay, but I really get into how she runs her business (and how screwed up is that, when you get really interested in a music business model which works).

  • http://theorangekazoo.blogspot.com Jill

    Thank you so much! What I hate about this new horrible thing Ani’s doing is that everyone’s scared to talk about it because Ani’s fans are crazy and like to pretend she’s Jesus. Her last few albums are nothing like the first ones, and while that’s not always a bad thing, if you’re a fan of Eminem, you’d be pissed if all of a sudden he started singing show tunes, right? Anyway, her lyrics have suffered greatly and I’m not ashamed to say that while I’m a huge fan, this little folk genius might be all out of words.

  • SFC SKI

    IF I had to choose between Fountains of Wayne for $13 and Ani for $13, I would choose Fountains of Wayne, on the other hand, I think Ani is more entertaining in concert. YOu just don’t like the current overplayed song on the radio, the Fountains have a great catalog of songs.

    I liked Ani more about 5 years ago, when she was able to work up some damn fine guitar playing as well as better lyrics.

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  • http://www.arguewithsigns.net bryan

    I find it laughable that you complain about her guitar playing on this album, given the fact that most of it is just guitar and vocals! Really, as I stated in my earlier review ( http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/04/10/220351.php ), there are some great lyrics here. Granted, there are some clunkers. I personally don’t like Ani’s politics, and the spoken word stuff is usually crap. But her guitar playing is – if anything – even more pronounced than on Evolve or Reveling/Reckoning. So it’s not “Napoleon” or “Letter to a John.” Get over it.

    And if you want to understand just how much she still relies on the guitar, you might just purchase the Washington D.C. live DVD that came out late last year “Trust.”

  • http://www.eclecticlibrarian.net/blog/ Anna

    She’s grown up since the early days. I saw this as her mature post-divorce rant.